KITTEN ENGINES:

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Reprinted with permission of The Ferdinand News, Ferdinand,
Indiana. Thursday, October 12, 1995 issue.

A banner year for Ferdinand was 1906. The town’s railroad
began operation after years of planning; Ferdinand Bottling Works
would soon begin making carbonated beverages under management of
the Haug brothers and, after two months the pressman for the
recently established FerdinandNews, Mr. Henry
Haake, took over as publisher and editor-in-chief.

That year also saw a changing of the guard of The Kitten Machine
Shop. Florenz Kitten, who founded his empire in 1868, turned the
operation over to his only son, Joseph F. Kitten. Though he would
live another 14 years, Florenz was undoubtedly ready for a rest
when he retired at the age of 66.

At this time the foundry was located at Eighth and Missouri,
while the Machine Shop adjoined Florenz Kitten’s home at the
corner of Ninth and Virginia. In the huge (for its time) two story
building a crew made steam engine powered equipment, including
threshing machines, grain separators, clover haulers, and corn
separators, as well as other steam-driven equipment like saw mills
for the lumber industry.

The manufacturing plant continued successfully, but in 1908
Joseph sold the business to John Hassfurther and John P. Reinecker,
who changed the name to the Ferdinand Foundry and Machine
Works.

Joseph took the plant back over in 1914, but his death in March,
1918 ended the Kitten dynasty. In an age when women were expected
to stay home and raise children, Joseph’s wife Elizabeth and
her father, Tony Buschkoetter, successfully managed the business.
Eventually Elizabeth and Joseph W. Bickwermert bought the
company.

Bickwermert leased the operation in January 1931 and he
purchased the business as sole owner in 1935.

The name underwent a change for the second time to the Ferdinand
Machine Company.

Bickwermert ran the business for the next 10 years, selling it
in 1945 to Leo G. Schipp, Mike and Fintan Stallings, who continued
the operation in a similar fashion.

Meanwhile the world of agriculture was changing. A man named
Deere came up with a pretty good design for farm tractors. The
invention of the combine would soon follow and by the late 1950s
steam powered threshing machines were almost obsolete.

Eddie Wessel and Leo Jasper are pictured here in 1922 in front
of a threshing operation using a Kitten steam engine. This photo
was loaned by the Ferdinand Historical Society.

The company, always forward thinking, entered the woodworking
finishing market in 1950 with the introduction of single and
two-station direct roll coater and curtain coaters.

Additional items for finishing purposes were added to the line
over the years, including multi-station printers, scuff sanding
machiner, reverse roll coaters, IR and UV curing equipment, high
velocity electric or gas fired ovens, various types of conveyors,
material handling equipment and high speed paper and vinyl
laminators.

Preparing for the future, what had begun as the Kitten Machine
Shop in 1868 was incorporated in 1952 as DuBois County Machine Co.,
Inc. with Fintan Stallings listed as president and Mike Stallings
name vice president. Additional manufacturing was begun in a new
Jasper facility in 1953 and Ed Vogler became the third major
shareholder.

Bob Dall joined the company in February 1957. He handled repairs
and occasionally worked on Kitten engines, by this time obsolete.
He remembers when, in December of 1959, all operations were moved
to Jasper and the Ferdinand shop was sold to Ferdinand Development
Corporation. ‘Bob Oser was driving a truck load of long steel.
The weight of the steel in the truck bed was so heavy it lifted the
front wheels off the ground.’

Bob is the only active employee left from the Ferdinand shop. He
will retire in a little more than a year, after 40 years with the
company. He has seen the business grow and the focus change.

Ownership changed hands several timesMike Stallings sold his
interest to Joe Zoglman and the officers were Fintan Stallings, Joe
Zoglman and Ed Vogler; then Jim Deaton bought Zoglman’s
interest.

On February 1, 1969 Bill Lange joined the firm as an engineer.
Lange designed a differential roll coater, which was a major
development in the woodworking finish market. Lange became an
integral part of the operation. Lange purchased the interest of Ed
Vogler and was a shareholder with Deaton and Stallings. Following
Jim Deaton’s death, Lange eventually purchased the shares of
Fintan Stallings and is the sole owner of the company today.

Dubois Machine Company bears little resemblance to the Kitten
Machine Shop.

The company today employs seven engineers to design custom
manufacturing systems, built in the machine shops for firms in
Europe, South America and Canada as well as the United States.

Florenz Kitten would be so proud! His company was founded on
innovation and today, in its present incarnation, Dubois Machine
Company, Inc. is known as a world wide design leader.

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